Unfortunately, most of the available loan products in the market require a down payment which can range between 3.5% to 20% depending on the type of housing finance assistance you’re applying for. As you can imagine, raising this down payment can be a challenge if you earn a modest income which also has to cater for all your bills and other day-to-day expenses.
The good news is that you don’t have to shelve your goal of homeownership simply because you don’t earn enough to make a down payment on a home. Through the USDA loan program, you can be eligible for a zero-down payment mortgage with attractive terms and interests.
The USDA loan program is currently rolled out in every county of Florida. So, if you’re planning to purchase a residence in Baker, this is an option worth considering. But before you embark on applying for a mortgage, you must understand what this mortgage product entails.
In this complete guide, you will learn everything you need to know about USDA loans, including some of their key features, benefits, and how to qualify for one. Keep reading to find out more.
Are you a Hometown Hero? Find out your eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Baker County, Florida.
What Are USDA Loans and How Do They Work?
USDA loans are zero-down payment mortgages that have been made available to empower people who live in rural and suburban areas to purchase homes. These mortgages are generally more affordable than conventional and government loans since they have low-interest rates and charge very low monthly mortgage payments.
The USDA does not disburse these loans directly but rather via recognized banks and lending institutions. However, loans are guaranteed by the government, which essentially means that if a borrower defaults on repayment, then the government takes on some of the cost. This explains why lending institutions are usually willing to provide USDA loan borrowers with far better terms and conditions than they would obtain with alternative mortgages.
USDA loans are available to first-time and repeat buyers who fulfill the minimal income and credit standards. However, a property to be financed by the USDA mortgage program must be in rural regions and serve as the owners’ principal residence.
The USDA determines whether or not a region is rural depending on its population. However, the USDA’s definition of “rural” is quite broad, which means that many suburban neighborhoods near large cities are considered under this umbrella term. Consequently, you are likely to qualify for a USDA loan even if you live in a region with a significant population.
It is important to note that, while USDA loans do not need a down payment, various overhead charges are connected with the loan’s processing. For example, when applying for a USDA loan, you will be charged a one-time fee equal to 1% of the loan amount. This cost is equal to 0.35 percent of the loan amount. However, you are not obligated to pay it all at once, but rather as part of the overall repayment of the loan. In addition to this initial contribution, you will be expected to make minor monthly payments to help offset the USDA program’s running costs.
Even so, obtaining a USDA mortgage loan is far less expensive than other popular lending alternatives, including HFA and FHA loans. This is partly because these loans do not demand a down payment, and the mortgage insurance required is modest. As a result, purchasing a house with a USDA loan is arguably the most affordable way to achieve homeownership.
Why Should You Opt For A USDA Loan Over Other Mortgage Loans?
Let’s face it; the mortgage industry is filled with numerous loan products, many of which may not be as attractive as they are marketed to be. Nevertheless, USDA loans not only have the backing and support of the government, which makes them trustworthy and legitimate, but they also have numerous features that can make the process of home purchase a lot simpler. So, it is not unreasonable to exercise some caution when shopping for the right kind of mortgage.
Here are some of the benefits you stand to enjoy by seeking home finance assistance via USDA loans:
You Won’t Need To Put Down A Down Payment
As highlighted initially, most mortgage offerings in the market require you to make a down payment which can range between 3.5% and 20% depending on the type of loan you’re applying for. This can be a real challenge, mainly if you earn a modest salary that has to cater for your bills and other responsibilities. Fortunately, USDA loans offer 100% home financing, so you won’t be required to make a down payment.
You Get to Enjoy Lower Interest Rates
To mitigate the risk of originating a loan to borrowers who might default, mortgage lenders often demand a high-interest rate. Unfortunately, this can translate to large monthly payments, which can make the overall cost of these mortgages quite expensive.
However, the exact opposite is true of USDA-approved lenders. Since the U.S government insures these loans, approved lenders are usually more than willing to offer USDA mortgages to borrowers at much lower interest rates and monthly payments.
You Are Likely To Encounter Flexible Lending Guidelines From Lenders
Unlike most mortgage products which require an impeccable credit history from borrowers, USDA lenders often qualify applicants whose credit histories are poor or even non-existent. To put it another way, you may still be eligible for a USDA loan even if you have a tarnished credit history or don’t have one. That said, your lender might require that you prove your ability and willingness to repay the mortgage. To this extent, they may ask you to provide documentation showing your rent, insurance, and utility payments.
You Get To Pay Less On Mortgage Insurance Premiums
Mortgage insurance is required for the USDA mortgage program, as it is for other low-down-payment mortgage programs. However, unlike FHA and conventional loans, USDA mortgage insurance payments are pretty low, thus saving you a significant amount of money throughout the loan term.
How To Qualify For a USDA Loan In Baker County, Florida
As mentioned at the outset, USDA loans are currently available to prospective homebuyers in all the counties of Florida. You can apply for a USDA loan in Baker County, Florida as a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S, as long as you demonstrate your intent to live in the property as your primary residence.
That said, there are several key requirements that you’ll need to meet to be approved for a USDA loan. These include:
Although approved lenders of the USDA Home Loan Program do not prioritize applicants’ credit scores when qualifying them for loans, having a solid credit score is still recommended when applying for this loan. If your credit score is 640 or higher, USDA’s automated underwriting system will consider you qualified for the loan.
However, if your credit score is less than 640, you may still be eligible for the loan. Your application will be manually underwritten, which may result in more scrutiny and stricter lending guidelines.
Lenders typically examine your income when applying for a USDA loan to see whether it fulfills the eligibility requirements. Your gross income must be equal to or less than a certain amount to qualify. As a general guideline, your adjusted income must be 115 percent or less of your area’s median income to be approved for a USDA loan.
To be eligible for a USDA loan, you must have a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 41 or below. In other words, you must not spend more than 41 percent of your monthly paycheck on debt payments. However, even if your DTI is higher than 41%, you can be approved for the loan, albeit you may be subject to stricter lending terms depending on the mortgage lender.
The USDA Home Loan Program, by definition, is intended to assist potential homebuyers in purchasing primary residences in rural regions. While the phrase “rural” may appear excessively limited to particular locations, the USDA defines the term rather flexibly, meaning that suburbs near big cities can still qualify for the program. Below are some of the main criteria that are used to designate a region as “rural” by the USDA:
Any region with a population not exceeding 20,000 and that is not part of a Metropolitan Statistical Area
Any region which lacks enough mortgage programs for low to medium-income households
- Any region with a population not exceeding 10,000 and that has an “open country” feel
The USDA loan can purchase different primary residences, including condos, townhouses, single-family homes, and modular homes. However, for a property to be approved for financing by the USDA, it needs to meet some basic standards, including:
It must serve as your primary residence
It must be a safe and secure structure with all the basic amenities, including running water, heating systems, electricity, plumbing, and garbage disposal
It must be located on a site with good access to roads and driveways
- It must not be large enough to be used for business or other commercial activities
USDA Loan Limits
A significant advantage of Guaranteed USDA loans is that they do not carry any loan limits. As highlighted earlier, these loans are offered by lending institutions approved by the USDA. So, when you apply for this type of loan, your lender will evaluate your application and offer you a mortgage value based on an assessment of your financial situation and credit history.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for a USDA Direct Loan, which is funded directly by the USDA, you can expect a maximum loan limit of $970,000 if the property you’re buying is in an affluent area and a limit of $336,000 if you’re purchasing a home in other locations.
USDA Loans Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
USDA loans include mortgage insurance in the form of a 0.35 percent annual fee and a one-time upfront guarantee fee. Your private mortgage lender will need you to pay the yearly fee in 1/12 monthly payments in addition to the mortgage payment. You will not have to pay the mortgage insurance premiums individually because they are included in your mortgage payments.
USDA loan mortgage insurance premium rates are significantly lower than those of FHA and conventional loans. Nevertheless, you are expected to pay the premiums over the loan term. The lender may enable you to incorporate the one percent advance payment in your loan amount even if your total loan amount exceeds the assessed value.
Top 5 Outdoor Activities to do in Baker County, Florida
Baker County is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the Sunshine State, with an estimated population of 28,679 according to the 2020 census. Its county seat is the city of Macclenny, which is a key industrial and agricultural center in Florida. Besides being a hub of industry, Macclenny also offers residents and visitors access to many exciting activities thanks to its proximity to other important cities such as Gainsville and Jacksonville.
If you’ve made up your mind about settling in this quaint part of Florida, here are some of the best ways to spend your leisure time:
Take A Day Trip To Heritage Park Village
Heritage Park Village, located on South Lowder Street in Macclenny, is a favorite destination for history buffs and newcomers to this picturesque city. This quaint village is brimming with intriguing and informative historical attractions that give guests unique insights into the area’s history and culture dating back over a century.
Some activities you can enjoy at Heritage Park Village include outdoor movie screenings, holiday festivals, and a circus performance. It’s also an excellent spot to stroll and unwind, particularly during the early morning and evenings when the Florida sun isn’t too extreme.
Go Shopping at The Riverside Arts Market
Riverside Arts Market, near Fuller Warren Bridge, is a hot destination with numerous merchants selling a wide range of items, including art, health and wellness products, jewelry, and pre-prepared food. It also serves as a farmer’s market, selling fruits and vegetables and confectionaries.
Besides serving as a shopping center for residents and visitors alike, Riverside Arts Market is also a haven for street performers, including jesters, jugglers, and fire eaters who are always eager to entertain. This gives the market a lively carnival-like “feel.”
Catch Some Spectacular Up Close Scenes Of Wildlife at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
If you’re searching for family-friendly activities in Baker County, then the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is an excellent place to start. Located on a picturesque site overlooking the Trout River, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens offer visitors an opportunity to experience thousands of native and exotic wildlife species, including tigers, monkeys, and giraffes.
The zoo’s ground is partitioned into various unique gardens, each with a distinctive theme. Also, the gardens are well connected by marked trails and footpaths to facilitate easy movement throughout the zoo.
Bring Your Kids to The Cade Museum For Creativity and Invention
Located on South Main Street in Gainesville, The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention offers a one-of-a-kind experience for individuals seeking an entertaining and enlightening experience under one roof.
The main objective of this recently opened museum is to introduce children to various disciplines such as entrepreneurship, business, and creative arts. The museum has several activities for kids that encourage critical thinking, cooperation, and problem-solving. It also regularly hosts field trips led by local community figures, including scientists and business owners.
Visit The Museum Of Science and History
The Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville is home to spectacular exhibits, including full-sized dinosaur replicas and a world-class planetarium. The facility also has a theatre that frequently hosts live performances, academic presentations, and community events. This makes it a great place to unwind and pass the time when the weather isn’t too conducive for some outdoor fun.
When it comes to home financing, no product offers you more flexibility and freedom than the USDA Home Loan. In addition to freeing you from the hassle of raising a down payment, this zero-down mortgage allows you to enjoy lower mortgage insurance rates and friendly lending terms. So, if this sounds like the right home loan, start shopping for a lender today to get pre-qualified.